Roche saves AG2R in China.
How do you say “UCI points bonanza!” in Chinese?
The point-strapped AG2R sent a strong and desperate squad to the Tour of Beijing. The mandate: score points or no plane ticket back home. Team manager Vincent Lavenu even warned his French riders there would be no more breakfast croissants if they didn’t retain their ProTour status.
Well, mission accomplished. Nicolas Roche (Ag2r) beat Philip Deignan (RadioShack) and Chris Froome (Team Sky) to the finish line of stage three Men Tou Gou to Yong Ning Town. Crazy “points” party in Yong Ning tonight — there’s a thirty, happy Irishman in town.
Roche, Deignan and Vuelta revelation Froome jumped away from the peloton on the final climb with about 15 kilometers to go. In the final 500 meters it was Froome who made the move but Roche who proved victorious. Chapeaux full of points to you, mate.
“The last 15km went really quick. The three of us just rode. We kept each other motivated. There was not much thinking out there, just riding,” Roche said.
This is one of the few times this season things have gone AG2R’s way. Maybe results follow when there’s some sort of plan rather than the usual laissez-faire. “I said that I wanted this stage and Jean-Christophe (Péraud) could improve on GC. Everybody worked to that goal and here’s the result. There are not a lot of days like this where you announce that you want to win and then it works out!”
Lavenu is now back at his computer with his special UCI point calculation software, running the improved set of numbers. By his previous assessment, AG2R was in a disturbing grey area between 15th and 20th on the totem pole. He was nearly forced to purchase the points with UCI president Pat McQuaid’s new “Pay For Points” program.
Just before the Tour of Beijing, Lavenu was blunt about the team’s situation. “There are bonuses only for victories and not for good results,” Lavenu explained to L’Equipe. “Either you win, which we don’t, or you have to find solutions. Our sponsor and myself want to remain in First Division next year.”
Meet Nicholas Roche, the solution. “On the finishing straight, I saw the bunch come back on me and I told myself, ‘no, not today, I can’t lose today!’”
Timing is everything and it’s hard to overstate the joy there is in AG2Rland. “This victory comes at the right moment for me as well as for the team,” said Roche. Yeah, order that man a cold Tsingtao.